Lesson 8: The BEAD-GCF Pattern

Remember you can zoom in and out on the images in this post by pressing Ctrl + and -. This lesson builds upon Lesson 6: The Five Fret Pattern.

Five Fret Pattern 1st String

The Five Fret Pattern occurs because of the particular way in which the guitar strings are tuned 5 frets apart. The great thing about this is that it makes the guitar reflect fundamental patterns in western music. This is why I think it’s so important for guitar players to learn music theory for the guitar in a way that is specific to the instrument and not just a rehashing of piano lessons.

If you take any starting note and you keep moving up 5 frets along an imaginary infinitely long guitar string, you will eventually cycle through all the different notes (a real guitar string isn’t long enough but the same thing happens when you move vertically across the strings).

Guitar Fretboard Diagram

For example, start with the B note on the lowest string, move 5 frets to the right and you’ll find an E (or follow the Five Fret Pattern and move up to the next string). When you move along another 5 frets (or the next string using the Five Fret Pattern) you’ll reach the A note. If you continue following this pattern you’ll encounter all the notes in the following order:

B – E – A – D – G – C – F – A# / Bb – D# / Eb – G# / Ab – C# / Db – F# / Gb and then the pattern starts at the beginning again: B – E – A – D – G – C – F etc. It’s a circular pattern.

To help you remember this pattern more easily you can simplify it to:

B – E – A – D – G – C – F – Bb – Eb – Ab – Db – Gb

Pronounce the first four notes as the word BEAD and remember the next three with the mnemonic Get Carter For me (after the movie Get Carter). Finally repeat the first five note names but as flats Bb – Eb – Ab – Db – Gb.

Now look at the notes on the fretboard again and see how this pattern appears across the strings. Find the B on the lowest string, then the E on the next string, the A etc and remember that this pattern follow the Five Fret Pattern so it shifts over to the right for the two highest strings.

Pick another note on the lowest string, for example the A at the 5th fret. The next notes are D – G – C, then remember to follow the Five Fret Pattern by moving a fret to the right to find F and Bb.

This pattern is another tool to help you learn all of the notes on the guitar fretboard, but it will also help you learn the Circle of 4ths and 5ths, a fundamental tool for understanding music theory. The Circle of 4ths and 5ths will be covered in the next lesson.